Britain receive Davis Cup bye

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The Independent Online

Great Britain were given an outstanding chance of gaining promotion to the Davis Cup World Group when the draw for next year's competition was made yesterday.

David Lloyd's side, who recently gained promotion from Euro-African Zone Group Two, need to win only two ties next year to rejoin the elite 16 nations in 1998 after Britain received a bye in the first round of Group One. They must beat either Zimbabwe or the Ukraine at home in the second round indoors in April to ensure a World Group qualifying match next September.

The second round will be played at either Telford, Brighton or Nottingham, with Zimbabwe Britain's likely opponents as they have the Black brothers - the world No 49, Byron, and No 248, Wayne - and are favourites to beat the Ukraine. Zimbabwe have home advantage and Andrei Medvedev, currently ranked No 31 but once as high as the world No 4, is the only Ukrainian of any note.

Andre Agassi and his American Davis Cup team-mates face a potentially hazardous trip to Brazil when they launch their World Group campaign next February. Last month Thomas Muster led an Austrian walk-out in their Davis Cup tie in Sao Paulo after intimidation from fans.

Greg Rusedski maintained his recent form by reaching the second round of the Peking Open, beating Russia's Andrei Olhovskiy, 6-3, 6-0.

DAVIS CUP DRAW Euro-African Zone Group One: First round (7-9 February 1997): *Belgium bye; Denmark v Hungary; *Great Britain bye; Zimbabwe v Ukraine; Israel bye; *Slovakia bye; Croatia v Morocco; *Austria bye. Second round (4-6 April): Belgium v Denmark or Hungary; Great Britain v Zimbabwe or Ukraine; Slovakia v Israel; Austria v Croatia or Morocco. Winners of second-round ties qualify for World Group qualifying round from 19- 21 September.

World Group First round (7-9 February): Brazil v *United States; Romania v *Netherlands; Australia v *France; *Czech Republic v India; *Italy v Mexico; Spain v *Germany; South Africa v *Russia; *Sweden v Switzerland.

*denotes seeded nations.